SAN ANTONIO – One of the top swimmers in the San Antonio area has been awarded a college athletic scholarship.
Grace Hale will be swimming for Southern Illinois University.
"It was kind of surreal. I didn't think that I would be able to do it," Hale said.
Hale has been swimming most of her life while dealing with a disability.
"They found out when I was 3 that I had hearing loss," she said.
By the time Hale was 10 years old, she was completely deaf. But hearing aides helped her communicate with her coaches and teammates.
"Her club swim team coach does have to make a few adjustments. Make sure you're facing that way. And her teammates, as I said, have been with her so many years. (They) are able to fill in the gaps, very smooth," said Lou Walker, head coach of the Alamo Area Aquatics Association.
"I have trouble with sets, you know, people talking to me during practice," Hale said. "I don't think it affects me in any way. I don't want it to, at least."
Her disability didn't affect her when she swam the 50-meter freestyle for Reagan High School in the district swim meet, where she won first place with a time of 24.48 seconds.
During her junior year, Hale had a medical setback and wasn't sure she wanted to swim in college. But after she started receiving scholarship offers from schools across the country and swimming at a high level, her interest was renewed in pursuing competitive swimming at the next level.
"I can't imagine going to college and not be a student-athlete," she said.
What makes her decision even more meaningful is how she was recruited. She never let on that she was deaf.
"I was recruited as an athlete, not as a deaf athlete," she said. "I didn't want to use being deaf as like, 'Oh, like she was only allowed on the swim team because she was deaf.'"
Hale's father was the one who finally told college coaches that his daughter is deaf. The coaches said they never had a clue.
Hale is also a champion in the classroom. She will graduate summa cum laude in the top 20 percent of her class at Reagan.